IoT creates M&A hotspots as firms forced to transform – report

IoT creates M&A hotspots as firms forced to transform – report

Internet of Things (IoT) or Industry 4.0 technologies are driving a new wave of mergers and acquisitions in the technology sector, says a report from M&A consultancy, Hampleton Partners.

Technologies such as sensors, blockchain, AI, machine learning, and big data analytics are the key hotspots across a range of industry verticals, including automotive, fintech, healthtech, and high-tech industrial applications.

Traditional companies are under pressure to quickly and effectively integrate these technologies into their product and service offerings. Hampleton Partners’ 2020 Tech Outlook report says the alternative is being rendered obsolete by new market entrants that are causing “profound shifts in value chains and customer behaviours”.

These transformative trends in the market are resulting in rising strategic deal valuations for disruptive, young, and scalable tech companies, says the report, with increasing activity from private equity sources compared to strategic investors.

Miro Parizek, founder and principal partner, Hampleton Partners, said: “The technological and resulting behavioural and social change is forcing established companies in industries such as financial services, automotive, healthcare, and high-tech industrials to acquire and integrate companies at the leading-edge of artificial intelligence, blockchain, cybersecurity, and other technologies.

“This is to ensure they can stay relevant and launch new products and services into the marketplace quickly. The alternative is simply to be left behind.”

Pressure gauge

M&A activity is seen by many analysts as a gauge of underlying tech trends, as both vendor and customer firms jostle to acquire startups, competitors, and strategic partners to consolidate their positions.

Overall M&A activity is down at present – transaction volume and total disclosed value have moved from $4.043 and $506 billion in 2016 to 3.441 and $325 billion in 2017 –but Industry 4.0 applications are buoyant, says the report.

This points to a promising future, it suggests. “As long as interest rates remain low and cash continues to pile up at both strategic and financial investors, we expect 2018 to see a rebound in M&A activity, rather than continuing a downward cyclical trend,” said Parizek.

“The space will continue to see a high degree of consolidation in several industries, while new, upcoming technologies such as blockchain, AI/machine learning, autonomous/connected vehicles, big data, IoT, and cloud will bring fresh tech to the market.”

Industry hotspots

Hampleton sees particular opportunities in automotive tech, including automotive vertical software, embedded software, and systems for vehicle autonomy and connectivity.

Fintech is another hotspot, says the report. “We expect waves of digital disruption driven by investment in chatbots, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, as well as in blockchain technology, gaining momentum with growing interest from large banks and private equity bidders,” said Mike Woods, senior principal at Hampleton Partners.

IT services, including outsourcing and software development, are another healthy area of M&A activity, says the company. “Development-intensive areas such as AI, cybersecurity, and automotive will continue to generate sustained growth in this area in the future,” said Axel Brill, director of Hampleton Partners.

Also on the firm’s radar are: healthtech, including healthcare vertical software, online health services, EHR, and medical hardware; and high-tech industrials, including in automotive, building and construction, clean tech, medical technology, and robotics and machinery.

Read more: Perfect storm blows healthtech towards IoT cures

“Industry 4.0 – now closer to a fact of life for manufacturers than a dream – is driving M&A in the high-tech industrials sectors, especially in the German-speaking world where the DACH countries can flex their traditional strength in high-quality engineering and innovative high-tech products,” said Dr. Peter Baumgartner, sector principal at Hampleton Partners.

Sensors and sensibility

At the heart of M&A activity in high-tech industrial applications are sensors, says the report: “IoT or Industry 4.0 is always predicated on devices being able to communicate in real-time as a response to real-world stimuli. Sensors constitute the key enabling technology as they capture and convey petabytes of information that inform automated processes and systems.

“With increased private equity tractions and deals from large OEMs, like TE Connectivity and STMicroelectronics, to smaller providers, sensors are taking on more prominent roles as they become smaller, resistant to harsher environments, cheaper, and integrated into ever more equipment.”

Internet of Business says

If you want to get ahead, bet on sensors and the rise of Industry 4.0 applications worldwide. The scale and number of IoT deployments alone should be persuasive, and the data that arises from these deployments worldwide will help transform organisations and society.

Read more: Automation will replace 9 percent of US jobs in 2018

Read more: Sensors for all! Exclusive Q&A with Alison Mitchell of Sensor City, Liverpool

Chris Middleton
Chris Middleton is former editor of Internet of Business, and now a key contributor to the title. He specialises in robotics, AI, the IoT, blockchain, and technology strategy. He is also former editor of Computing, Computer Business Review, and Professional Outsourcing, among others, and is a contributing editor to Diginomica, Computing, and Hack & Craft News. Over the years, he has also written for Computer Weekly, The Guardian, The Times, PC World, I-CIO, V3, The Inquirer, and Blockchain News, among many others. He is an acknowledged robotics expert who has appeared on BBC TV and radio, ITN, and Talk Radio, and is probably the only tech journalist in the UK to own a number of humanoid robots, which he hires out to events, exhibitions, universities, and schools. Chris has also chaired conferences on robotics, AI, IoT investment, digital marketing, blockchain, and space technologies, and has spoken at numerous other events.